SAN MARCOS (11-10-2017) -- Both Palomar College and San Diego County rival Grossmont have fought their way through considerable frustration through their respective up-and-down football seasons.
But there will be more than just bragging rights on the line when the Comets (4-6, 0-4 in the Southern Conference) and Griffins (4-6, 2-2) close the regular season with their Veterans Day match-up at 6 p.m. Saturday at Escondido High School's Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium.
The winner will become bowl eligible. The loser will pack up its gear for the year.
The Comets' and Griffins' seasons have been frustrating in different ways.
Palomar was hot to start the season, going 4-1 through the first half of its schedule. But since then the Comets have lost five straight games, including some especially frustrating defeats when they were unable to put a full game together.
Grossmont started the season slowly, then bounced back to go 2-2 in conference in a pair of close victories. But the Griffins gave up 79 points to nationally No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Fullerton and surrendered 77 points to Saddleback in its two league losses.
"The winner will get to play a bowl game, the selection committee willing, and when we play Grossmont it's definitely a rivalry game, so it means a lot for both schools," Palomar coach Joe Early said. "We haven't capitalized when we've had a chance to the last half of the season, and when we have capitalized we've shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and mistakes. Those are things we have to take care of Saturday night."
An individual duel between Palomar quarterback Matt Romero and Grossmont quarterback Brad Cagle could decide this one. Romero was on fire the first half of the season, when he led the state and the nation in touchdown passes. He's had his moments the second half of the year, but hasn't been as consistent as during the first five games -- right when Cagle has gotten hot.
Cagle, a West Hills High School product (Romero came to Palomar out of Oceanside High School) has had a similar hot hand in the Griffins' two conference victories to what Romero had when he destroyed Southwestern's defense in the Comets' season opener.
Special teams (read: kicking) also could have a lot to do with which team wins Saturday. Palomar's Tyson Dyer, a freshman from Australia, may well be the best punter in community college football. Meanwhile, Grossmont's Nels Haltom could be as good as any place kicker on the community college level this season and sent his third field goal of the game sailing over the crossbar to decide last Saturday's come-from-behind 36-34 victory over Golden West with 5 seconds remaining.
Palomar kicker Tyler Vargas has been cleared to participate after suffering an injury last week against Saddleback. But the Comets could instead wind up having Dyer, whose considerable skills also extend to place kicking, in that capacity. He showed off those place-kicking skills in practice during the week.
Palomar students who are veterans have received free tickets to the game, donated by Palomar Athletics, with the gates at Wilson Stadium opening at 4:30 p.m.
PALOMAR PROBABLE LINE-UP
QB - Matt Romero, So, 6-2, 210, Oceanside High School
RB - Issiah Aguero, So, 5-11, 195, Poway High School
WR - Devin Nilson, Fr, 5-11, 180, Carlsbad High School
WR - Bryce Walker, Fr, 5-11, 165, Bartram Trail High School (St. Johns, FL)
SL - Ryan Lasua, Fr, 6-1, 185, Vista High School / Dixie State University
SL - Chris Grimes, So, 5-9, 175, El Camino High School / Bethany College
WR - Marquis Williams (So, 5-11, 178, Father Lopez (Daytona Beach, FL) / Southwestern CC
TE - Blake Adamson, Fr, 6-5, 255, Valhalla High School / University of St. Francis
TE -- Chase Olsen, So, 6-2, 215, San Marcos High School
LT - Preston Johnson, So, 6-4, 285, Ramona High School
LG - Josh Castrellon, Fr, 6-2, 285, La Costa Canyon High School
C- Joshua Pichette, So, 6-3, 255, Tri-City Christian School
RG - Jeremiah Castrellon, Fr, 6-3, 290, San Marcos High School
RT - Michael Childress, So, 6-5, 300, Vista High School
DE - Malu Malotumau (Fr, 6-4, 230, El Camino High School
DE - Carter Couch (So, 6-3, 190, Mt. Carmel High School / Savannah State
DT - Anthony Zuniga, So, 6-0, 270, San Marcos High School
DT - Trea Samifua, So, 6-1, 290, West Anchorage (West Anchorage, Alaska) / Grossmont CC
LB - J.D. Fox, So, 6-3, 225, Escondido High School
LB - Chandler Wachholtz, So, 6-0, 220, La Costa Canyon High School
CB - Devonte Woods, So, 5-8, 182, Father Lopez High School (Daytona Beach, FL)
CB - Rayshawn Herring, So, 5-9, 180, Deltona High School (Deltona, FL) / Southwestern CC
FS - Danny Wood, So, So, 5-11, 175, Carlsbad High School
S - Jake Ambrose, Fr, 6-3, 180, Mira Mesa High School
NICKLE - Maxwell Scott, So, 6-2, 182, Murrieta Mesa High School (Murrieta, CA) / Saddleback CC
PAT, FG, KO - Tyler Vargas, So, 5-11, 175, Ramona High School
or Tyson DyerP - Tyson Dyer, Fr, 6-2, 195, Palm Beach Currumbin State (QLD, Australia)
KOR - Brian Nievas, Fr, 5-7, 160, Daltona High School (Daltona, FL)
KOR -- Issiah Aguero
KOR - Marquis Williams
PR - Devin Nilson
LS - Carter Couch